Sunday, 31 January 2016

On creating a culture

The Daughter and I were out of the house before seven this morning to travel to a regional gymnastics competition.  She is, and has been for six years, part of a local acro gymnastics club. We are a small town, the club train in our local leisure centre.  At each one of their three training sessions a week coaches and gymnasts get out equipment and put it away.  Yet in no way does this small club from our small town have small ambitions.  They compete and hold their own against bigger clubs, with elite facilities and far more money. 

The ethos of the club is excellent.  I never see a gymnast admonished for slipping up, sometimes I see that from coaches of other 'elite' clubs at competitions and I always think it's such a pity. If a gymnast does make a mistake they beat themselves up enough. If it happens to an East Kent Acro gymnast the first thing you see when the gymnast leaves the floor is a handful of their club colleagues rushing to make sure they are ok and dry the inevitable tears.  

As well as that supportive ethos there is also discipline.  Like a school that has a supportively strict attitude toward correct uniform the club has a high expectation when it comes to correct kit.  Right down to their black socks.  There is a club competition leotard & a club track suit.  It makes them look dedicated and professional.  Therefore they stand taller.  

Competing against clubs of such a high standard can lead to feelings of disappointment sometimes.  My daughter has an 'in it to win it' approach to any kind of competitive sporting occasion!  I encourage that but don't want her to get too down if I know she is the 2nd division competing against the premiership. 

But then, there's always the FA cup isn't there?

My daughter took up gymnastics aged 6.  She had spent the previous two years horse riding-until one bit her.  That was a deal breaker for her!  So gymnastics it was.  Before gymnastics she used to regularly fall over thin air.  I have seen gymnastics transform her into a young lady with more grace and poise than I could ever dream of. 

When it comes to gymnastics she is 10% talent and 90% hard graft.  She learned early on that sometimes natural gymnasts come in and go ahead of her in the squad.  That's how competitive sport is.  She's a West Ham fan, she gets it! But she has continued to give it 100% effort.  Her coaches awarded her 'Coaches gymnast 2015' at the club award evening at Christmas in recognition of the work she puts in.  She has also started coaching recently and loves everything about it.  

I'm a huge fan of local club level sport.  I loved being part of the rowing squad for Deal rowing club when I was younger.  It teaches young people such a range of qualities and skills.  The work that goes into competition, the preparation for competition, the thrill of the day.  The euphoria when it's your day.  The digging deep and starting again when it isn't. 

This year's competitive gymnastics season didn't get off to the best start for daughter and her partner, they scored and placed quite low.  They worked hard with their coach and in the next big competition a couple of months later their score had improved to only around a point below the medal places.  They were encouraged and continued to work their socks off in preparation for today's competition. 

Yesterday they had a mini competition within their own club.  My mother in law took daughter.  She came back totally disillusioned having come seventh out of eight pairs.  She and mother in law had a really good chat about being resilient.  Last night she did all her prep-warm bath, stretch, early night, got up extra early to stretch this morning-and off we went. 

Before their round she and her partner stretched, warmed up, practised and I also noticed them just standing by the mat talking through their routine.  

They came in from their routine visibly proud of themselves.  

What was also wonderful at that point was the praise from their coaches and fellow club gymnasts.  She sat next to me and was visibly pleased-and then asked me if I thought they had placed! I said if they hadn't they wouldn't be far off and I thought that their score had improved. 

Presentation time came.  My daughter had got muddled about which category she was in, so when the medals were announced we both thought she hadn't placed. I glanced over to her, knowing how disappointed she would be, and felt nothing but pride to see her congratulating two fellow EKA gymnasts on their medal with genuine happiness on her face.  The category she and her partner were in (but didn't realise they were) was then announced.  When she and her partner's names were announced for a medal I really wish I had been videoing her as I don't think I have ever seen a child look more surprised, overwhelmed and then ecstatic inside of five seconds!  Here they are on the podium, mine's the one with a grin a mile wide. She's still wearing it! 

East Kent Acro did amazingly well in the medals today, against a very high standard.  I couldn't be prouder of the club spirit, discipline, support and pride in one another.  Kelly and her team of coaches have set a fabulous culture.  It's a real privilege to be a part of the club.  Some schools have a lot they could learn from the culture of EKA.

Daughter is at her dad's tonight so I text her all the photos and asked if she would like me to make a video of them and if so which song. She text back asking for the following.  So honest about how she is hard on herself.  I have something to learn from that. 

One more in the club track suit.